A visitor avoided the bathroom because she knew she would find no toilet paper there.
And it's a question we really need to ask: Although we make up just 5 percent of the world's population, Americans hog roughly 30 percent of the planet's resources and generate one-fourth of the world's greenhouse gases in the process.
An article in the New York Times famously branded the project "The Year Without Toilet Paper," generating a bit of a media frenzy and leaving a lot of folks, myself included, with the impression that Beavan was an opportunistic schmuck.
Folks in the media are wasting precious space fixating on how Beavan and his family handled their waste -- the forgoing of toilet paper, the adoption of a bin of red wiggler worms to compost their kitchen scraps.
- No driving, no flying, or even relying on mass transit. They got to where they needed to go on foot, bike or scooter.
- No more elevators, either; they took the stairs to reach their ninth-floor apartment (several exceptions to these rules were made: two train rides to visit upstate farms, and an occasional elevator ride when security measures or double-digit floors in a midtown New York high-rise required it).
- No buying new stuff, except for foods produced within 250 miles of Manhattan. So, no more takeout, out-of-season produce or coffee (although Michelle fought for, and won, a concession on the coffee front). And no meat, because livestock production is such a fossil-fuel-intensive process.
- No watching TV; the family eventually went off the grid entirely, playing cards by candlelight and otherwise amusing themselves without electricity.
- No washing machine or refrigerator. Abstaining from these two appliances proved especially challenging, as No Impact Man, the film documenting Beavan's endeavor, memorably shows.